Playing with Language: 10 Ideas for Families
We love to play with language in our house.
Words. Idioms. Jokes. Figurative language.
It’s all part of the atmosphere of learning that we have created in this house and it is easier to create that you might realize.
We repeat our favorite lines from movies and TV shows, share silly puns, attempt to solve riddles, and experiment with new vocabulary words. There isn’t a limit to the many ways you can play with words and language in your home.
I bet you’ve already started to realize how much your family plays with language as well, so let’s talk about ten ideas you can incorporate into your family lifestyle.
As part of our Brave Writer Lifestyle, we have embraced the idea of playing with language. It’s made me aware of the many ways we naturally play with words in our home.
1. Playing with Language: Read Poetry
Poetry is full of figurative language, silly words, and delightful phrases. Keep a few books on hand to read at bedtime, in your morning basket, or on a random Tuesday afternoon.
I have a special place on our bookshelf for our poetry books. Of course, there are times they wander off to another room or shelf for a while. I love that they are being used, and somehow, I always help them find their way back when a child is finished with them.
Our top five favorite poetry books or authors are:
- Jack Prelutzky. The first book our family owned by Jack Prelutzky was The New Kid On the Block. The poems were silly, fun, and complchild-friendlyiendly. We were hooked and immediately checked out more.
- Marilyn Singer. Our family enjoyed an entire poetry teatime focused on books by Marilyn Singer. We adore her creative Reverso Poetry books, such as Mirror, Mirror.
- The Imagine A Night book and other Rob Gonsalves books in the series are some of our favorite illustrated poetry books. I’ve written about our love for these books and Rob Gonsalves’ artwork before.
- Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost has always been one of my favorite poems. I memorized it in school and continue to enjoy it to this day. My mother bought this illustrated version for me and it is a treasure. Hidden creatures can be found in all of the black and white drawings.
- The Poetry Teatime Companion by Julie Bogart is a favorite compilation of poems in our home. The images are beautiful and the additional information included about the poets add to our enjoyment.
These are just five of our favorite choices, but you can find all of my favorites on my poetry book list.
2. Playing with Language: Play an “Anytime, Anyplace Game”
These are the types of games that don’t require a board or a particular set of cards. You can play them while camping, at youth gatherings, or at a restaurant while you wait for food.
ABC Theme Game. The group should select a category. Choose a topic, a TV show, or a book title. Begin with the letter “A” and try to brainstorm a word for every letter of the alphabet suited to the chosen category. For example, if the category is “Harry Potter” then you might pick Albus Dumbledore or Avada Kadavra for the letter “A”.
Snickerdoodle. This game requires a pencil and piece of paper for each participant.
Ghost. This is a spelling game that can be played anywhere. I learned it around the campfire as a kid. The first person begins the game by stating a letter. The next person adds to the word with a second letter. Play continues around the circle as each person adds an additional letter. The goal is to add a letter WITHOUT spelling a word though you MUST have a word in mind.
NOTE: We do not count three letter words, but that is up to you!
On your turn, you can add a letter to the current line up or challenge the person who added a letter before you if you don’t believe they were spelling a word. If you spell a word when you add a letter, then you earn a “G”. If you lose a challenge, then you earn a “G”. After earning a “G”, you would earn an “H”, then “O”, until you have spelled, “Ghost”.
Once you become a ghost, then no one is allowed to talk to you or they become a ghost immediately.
Player 1: A
Player 2: B
Player 3: S
(We do not count three letter words, so “Abs” wouldn’t count and player 3 would be safe.)
Player 4: O
Player 1: (cannot think of a word that starts with Abso—) I challenge you, Player 4.
Player 4: I was thinking of the word “Absolutely”.
In this case, Player 1 would receive a “G” because they lost the challenge. The game would continue with a new round.
Find a list of writing games you can play with your kids anytime, anyplace.
3. Playing With Language: Board and Card Games
We love games that force us to think creatively about words and language. We’ve tried many games over the years and these are my top five favorites:
- Codenames – There are so many fun variations of this game but we own and enjoy the original.
- Dixit – enchanting illustrations encourage creative wordplay
- Snake Oil – My kids laugh hysterically while playing this game.
- Quiddler – A fun spelling game? Yep!
- Apples to Apples – a classic that is still a hit in our house.
You can see all of my favorite Language Arts games here.
4. Playing with Language: Read a Book that Plays with Words
Step away from the chapter books and bring home a few books that play with language. We have had a great time with the following titles and genres over the years:
- Pop Sonnets. I read these out loud to the kids and they try to guess the pop song. It’s a great way to study Shakespearean language and the sonnet format while having fun.
- William’s Shakespeare Star Wars. The Star Wars trilogy written in the language of Shakespeare. Need I say more?
- OMG Classics. These clever titles rewrite classic literature using modern methods of communication, such as group texts, email, snaps, and emojis. These books crack up my kids, but please beware of some language (acronyms mainly) that are more suited to teens and adults.
- Idiom Books. There are plenty to choose from such as the Dictionary of Idioms or In a Pickle. They are a great way to teach your kids new phrases and to play with words.
- Joke Books. Kids love jokes and there a millions of choices. Grab a few and have a few laughs.
5. Playing with Language: Learn New Vocabulary
There are many ways to learn new vocabulary, including conversation and reading great books. But sometimes you might like to incorporate a more systematic way to learn new words.
Our family has had a great time playing with Marie’s Words. I keep them hanging on the door in the kitchen and we have a lifesaver reward system for those who use a word on the list.
UPDATE: Apparently Marie’s Words are very expensive right now. The Picture These SAT Words looks like a similar option for a reasonable price.
6. Playing with Language: Watch a TV Series Together
Wait. You mean TV counts?
Yes. Yes, it does. Watching TV and movies with your kids can absolutely spark language growth. Have some great conversations about the plot. Repeat the funny lines. Adopt the puns and jokes as your own.
Our family has enjoyed a ton of television shows together and we still repeat memorable episodes, lines, and scenes. Our all-time favorite series is still a top choice these days. Want to know what it is?
I’ll give you a hint…
The Netflix series, A series of Unfortunate Events, is the most recent show we enjoyed that is littered with fantastic wordplay for our amusement.
Well, at least my 11-year-old son and I find it amusing. The other kids roll their eyes.
7. Playing with Language: Host a Book Club
Book clubs are a natural way to discuss literature. Organize a book club meeting for your children and their friends.
Talk about books. Enjoy some fun snacks. Lay the foundation for literary analysis in the years to come.
Need help planning a book club? Download our FREE guide: The Book Club Planning Guide.
8. Playing with Language: Mystery Quotes
My friend, Heather at Nerdy Little Birdie, has developed a creative way to play with language in her homeschool. Every week she writes a mystery quote on her chalkboard
She uses these quotes to highlight different literary elements. Her boys discuss the quote with her and try to discover the source of the quote.
Be sure to follow her Instagram account for more great ideas and plenty of quotes.
9. Playing with Language: Download an App
Apps are a great way to play with words. They are entertaining and they travel well in the car. We have recently enjoyed Word Bounce. In fact, I was quite addicted to this one during our 7,500 road trip this summer.
My daughter and I went through a phase of playing Words with Friends. It was a ton of fun.
Finally, I keep Word Warp on my phone for my own entertainment. The kids try to help me find works when we are waiting in doctor offices.
There are so many options. Do you or your kids have a favorite? Feel free to leave it in the comments!
10. Playing with Language: Read Books With Your Kids
I know. This one is a bit obvious, but sometimes we need a reminder that the simple act of reading and discussing books is a powerful teacher.
Simply crack a book, read, and enjoy talking about it with your child.
Have fun playing with words!
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